Sunday, August 2, 2015

Go Set a Watchman – The Audacity of Hype

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is an undisputed literary classic published in 1960.  Author Harper Lee then decided writing was not really her forte and instead of using her God-given talent, went on a self-imposed 55 year hiatus.  Happens all the time, right?  Left.   Great writers just do not quit.  See Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Wolfe.  The creative juices insist on output. This woman is not normal.  On top of the world in 1960, we are led to believe she abandoned her craft.  For what?  Booze in her basement?  Meth in the attic?  Who knows.  Speculation about her seclusion is pointless.  She became Boo Radley, the cuckoo in the nest and the shadow in the window.

Fast forward to 2015.   Ms. Lee's sister and caretaker has passed away and we are instructed that Harper Lee penned another novel. Not recently, of course.  She is incapable of working a TV remote.  No, this was written prior to Mockingbird.  Or so her lawyer and publicist would like us to believe.  Now those two wouldn’t have any ulterior motive to see Ms. Lee ca$h in on some dusty old manuscript.  The only surprising thing is these gold diggers did not wait until Ms. Lee croaked but either the will or estate taxes must have dictated otherwise.

The 60 Minutes segment was fascinating.  The fairy tale goes that “Go Set a Watchman” was hidden in plain sight in a bank deposit box.  Several times it had been opened for Sotheby-types to value the contents but they never noticed any “Watchman” manuscript.  The story goes that the box was opened in 2011 and that the lawyer left the valuations guys in the bank for a few hours and when she came back, magically, “Watchman” was there on the table in the bank in the middle of Monroeville, Alabama.  The only thing missing was Merlin and a few prancing unicorns.

We encouraged to lap up that “Watchman” was written before “Mockingbird” and the setting a few decades later.   Scout is back from NYC and Atticus Finch is now a kard karrying kharacter, who would prefer to see them coloreds stay in their place.  Give me a break.  This makes no sense whatsoever.  Who goes from fervently defending Tom Robinson to downpressing his kind?  How does the sequel get written before the prequel but the second book gets published 55 years before the first and the author cannot be asked what the heck happened to the one of the great models for civil rights because she hasn’t granted an interview since JFK was chasing Marilyn in the White House?  Wasn't this prequel / sequel time travel thing the basis for The Terminator?  Maybe Ah-nold knows what happened?

So is Watchman any good?  Well don’t look to the major US newspaper reviews for answers.  They are decidedly non-committal, i.e don’t get in the way of a good old fabricated story.  I went to my usual sources - The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times - and might as well have asked Siri for a review.  According the NYT "Students of writing will find “Watchman” fascinating", which is code for this crap makes no frigging sense.    The WSJ summarizes the story but shies away from a verdict.  No kidding.  The WSJ is owned by News Corp. who also own Harper Collins, the publisher of Watchman.  Don't expect any negativity where Murdoch's coffers are concerned.

Unperturbed I sought and found the truth in the Irish Times.  John Boyne writes: "It was meant to stay inside, locked away, hidden from the world. It was not supposed to be published. It was not supposed to be read. But when all the talk of the reclusive author has died down, and the inevitable articles about extraordinary sales figures have been consigned to the archives, Go Set a Watchman will quietly slip away, not forgotten but little more than an interesting side note to a work of literary genius..."

Sad to say, if you want the truth, follow the money. I will not be wasting $16 on this concocted half-baked tripe in order the line the pockets of leeches.

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